South Africa Vehicle Sales Growth Eases to 3-Year Low

South African vehicle sales expanded at the slowest pace in three years in 2012 as consumers curbed spending and economic growth slowed, the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa said.

Sales rose 9.2 percent from a year earlier to 623,914 vehicles, the Pretoria-based group said in an e-mailed statement today. Sales in December rose 1.8 percent from a year earlier to 46,016.

Household spending, which accounts for about two-thirds of expenditure in the economy, has come under pressure as growth slowed and unemployment increased. Vehicle sales will probably remain moderate this year, expanding 7.3 percent, the association said.

“Following the strong improvement in trading conditions in the automotive retail market in 2010 and 2011, the recovery continued throughout 2012 albeit on a more subdued basis,” according to the statement. “The positive momentum should continue into 2013 with demand supported by historic low interest rates.”

The Reserve Bank has kept the repurchase rate at 5 percent, the lowest level in more than 30 years, since a surprise cut in July. Retail sales rose 1 percent in November, the slowest pace since February 2010, according to the statistics office. The economy probably expanded 2.5 percent last year, down from 3.5 percent in 2011, according to the central bank.

Passenger-car sales increased 11 percent to 439,997 last year, while vehicle exports rose 3.5 percent to 277,844.

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